With the rushed and compact NHL season, anything can happen. Columbus could make the post-season (not really). Calgary could get Miikka Kiprusoff back ahead of schedule (don’t think so). Drew Doughty could win the Art Ross (not this year).
What would happen though, if this was April and the standings remained? The Eastern Conference Champions from 2012 would still be on top, even after trading away their star captain. The Stanley Cup Winning LA Kings though? Four spots out of making the playoffs. Colorado and Washington, budding with talent but unable to find their grooves so far, would sit at rock bottom, looking up at teams like Carolina and Toronto who haven’t played past 82 games for years.
Exciting match-ups and obvious Division Champions, here are your 2013 NHL Playoffs (kind of).
1) New Jersey Devils VS. 8) New York Rangers
The Hudson River Rivalry continues. After the Devils and Adam Henrique defeated the Blueshirts in the Eastern Conference Final last year, the Rangers went out and acquired Rick Nash (who’s only played in one playoff series…ever).
2) Boston Bruins VS. 7) Montreal Canadiens
This battle has been going on for years, but after the whole Pacioretty-Chara incident in 2011, and Nathan Horton’s double OT winner in game 7 a few months later, the battle has turned into a blitzkreig. It would be so much more fun if it was Subban vs. Subban too.
3) Carolina Hurricanes VS. 6) Ottawa Senators
The Sens may have the edge in this series, if Anderson keeps playing as hot as he has been of late. These two have never squared off in the post-season, but the Canes have won both meetings so far this year. Also to consider: due to the “silly division leaders at the top three spots” Carolina sits third, even though Ottawa is technically one point ahead of them. The Hurricanes should really send flowers to everyone in the Southeast.
4) Toronto Maple Leafs VS. 5) Pittsburgh Penguins
Congrats Leafs Nation, you’ve finally made it back! Only to meet up with Crosby, Malkin, and the gang. The Kid may want to skate with extra caution, as the Leafs are currently the hardest hitting team in the NHL. Fun fact: the last time Toronto made the playoffs, #87 wasn’t even drafted yet.
1) Chicago Blackhawks VS. 8) St. Louis Blues
So, Chicago has yet to lose in regulation. They have the largest goal differential in the league with +17, thanks to Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford. Their penalty kill is at 93%. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks blew through this “Best of the Midwest” and rode all the way to the big dance.
2) Anaheim Ducks VS. 7) Phoenix Coyotes
These conference rivals haven’t met in the post-season since Phoenix’s (get this) FIRST YEAR in the league. In the era of Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya against Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk, the Ducks came out on top in game 7.
3) Vancouver Canucks VS. 6) Nashville Predators
In 2011, Nashville finally achieved the glory of winning a playoff series. Except they didn’t do it against the Canucks. In the second round, Vancouver took the series in six, with each game being decided by a lone goal. However, their best offensive force was Ryan Kesler. When’s he coming back again?
4) San Jose Sharks VS. 5) Detroit Red Wings
Minus their unexpected early exit last year against the Blues, the Sharks have been…okay in the playoffs, having knocked out the Wings in 2010, and in 2011. However, they have never even made it to the final, whereas Detroit has 11 cups. Patrick Marleau may be in the running for the Rocket Richard, but was held pointless last year during the post-season.